The Chargers have faced their fair share of explosive offenses this season, and that trend continues on Sunday when they visit the Cleveland Browns. Despite their 1-6 record, the Browns boast a number of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball that have caught Defensive Coordinator John Pagano’s attention.
“They’re just an explosive team,” he said. “Their offensive line is probably the heart and soul. The quarterback is doing an excellent job of really understanding the game and seeing his reads and where he should go with the ball. They’ve had a bunch of receivers in and out but Josh Gordon and Ben Watson at tight end do such a great job. The two runners between Trent Richardson and Montario Hardesty, they have two guys that are very explosive and can still make plays. It is something that we still need to concentrate on. We have to stop the run.”
The most obvious name that leaps out is Richardson, the dynamic running back selected third overall in last April’s NFL Draft. The 5-foot-9, 230-pounder is no guarantee to play as he battles a rib injury that rendered him ineffective last week. But when healthy, Richardson is as dangerous as any other runner in the league, possessing a rare combination of power and speed. He is also a dual threat out of the backfield, proving to be a dangerous weapon in the passing game as well.
Even though the Bolts possess the number one ranked rushing defense in the league, they know they will need to bring their best in order to bottle up Richardson.
“You just see how explosive he is,” said Pagano.”(He’s) very shifty and hard to tackle. He’s a guy that we’ve been really talking about getting 11 guys around the football. He is someone that does not stop his feet. He sees and plays with great vision. The one thing he has is great balance. The first initial hit, he doesn’t go down. That’s something we’ve really stressed to these guys about getting him wrapped up.”
Another rookie that has caught Pagano’s eye is Gordon, the big-play receiver chosen in the second round of the 2012 Supplemental Draft. A 6-foot-3, 225-pound speed demon, Gordon has busted out in a big way for the Browns over their last three games. He’s caught four touchdowns during that span and boasts a yards-per-reception average well over 30.
“The speed in which he runs his routes (is incredible),” he said. “He has the opportunity to run away from people. He has that big play ability. That’s something you see more and more. That’s why his average is so high the last couple weeks. He’s someone that we really have to do a good job and like I said, we need to go out there and eliminate big plays.”
Those big plays have proven to be the Achilles Heel lately for the Chargers defense, especially in the second half. As a result, Pagano is determined to put an end to them, starting immediately.
“The biggest thing over these last two weeks has really been eliminating the big plays. A big thing with what we’ve talked about is to go out there and make them earn it. Let’s not let it be us giving them an opportunity. Let’s make them work for it. That’s what our mindset has been all week.”
*The Chargers added four names to their injury report today.
*A reminder once again that next Thursday’s game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs is the team’s Annual Food Drive. The fan who brings the most nonperishable food items to the game will receive a special 50th Anniversary autographed football.